Sunday, January 15, 2017

Abba Father

Abba, Father...
Like a sigh from deep within, a sigh of relief.
Ahhhhh. Abba, Father.

A shout of joy! Abba, Father!
A receiving of the heart's desire. My Abba Father....

Papa. God. My Papa God.
What an amazing thing to be a daughter of the God. I let that sink in a bit.

It blows my mind.

I can so easily rattle off cliché sayings.  "He's a good Father," and, "I'm a daughter of the Most High God." But right now, I'm letting it roll around in my soul, not just roll off my tongue.

One of my deepest longings is to belong.  I don't think that's a unique desire. I believe all of mankind yearns for a person to see them clearly and love them deeply. I'm no different.

I've searched for it in all the wrong places. I've searched for it in the world as an unbeliever, and I've searched for it in the things of God as a believer. And both have had similar results. I can easily turn the things of God into an idol. Unbelievers aren't the only ones who can exalt the creation above the creator.

If I don't believe that He is the Father, that I find my belonging in Him, I'll go searching elsewhere. I'll demand love, loyalty, and respect where I have no right. I'll put people on pedestals. I'll try to satisfy my longing for depth with shallowness. I'll use people and things to fill the gap, and when they can't, I'll move on to something else, another empty promise from the enemy.

And God, He will let me. He'll let me choose that, choose something or someone over Him. It will grieve Him, but He will wait, like the father waiting for the prodigal son, and when I come limping back, He comes running. He doesn't even wait for me to get to His door. He flings it open, takes off down the street with arms open to receive me in an embrace.

Abba Father!

The truth is, I can stay in that embrace. I don't ever have to leave it.
I've been living in that embrace steadily, with rarely a break, for weeks now....

It's amazing.
His Presence, like a waterfall, saturating me to my bones.
It's what the older brother didn't see- that his father was always there to embrace him, to rejoice over him... to love him. His father's heart was the same toward both sons. 

Because He's a good Father.
And He is faithful.


Thursday, January 12, 2017


My eyebrow twitches uncontrollably. I'm sleep-deprived and living on a wing and a prayer. The baby cries out from his pack'n'play upstairs in our bedroom, and I sigh. I just laid him down ten minutes ago, but he's not feeling so well, and sleep hasn't come easy to him for weeks, so, therefore, not to me.

I find myself grumbling inwardly, but that night I hold him to my chest and rock back in forth in my bed as he whimpers, and I repent before the Lord.

I don't want to give an offering of my life with grumbling. I don't want to slip into survival mode. I don't want to wish the days away. That's now how I want to live. My children are not chores; I don't want to view them as burdens. Lord, I am dependent upon you. I am needy. I need you to keep me soft and humble, gentle and patient.  

I let go of the tightness building in my chest, and I ask the Lord to give me patience, because I know my supply is inadequate. When I was a young mama of two children, I remember sharing my prayer request for patience with my small group, and several voices piped, "Oh no, never pray for patience! The Lord will send you through such horrible trials to learn it if you do!"

I wasn't a wise woman then (and I don't think I've reached some pinnacle of it now either), but I knew that was ridiculous. I was a fairly new believer, but I knew I had to ask for what I needed. I knew my own patience was not enough, and I knew that I required it from the Christ in order to live an overcoming, fruitful life pleasing unto the Lord.

[with my four girls]
That the Lord would send me through such horrible trials to gain such a quality was ridiculous. Marriage and motherhood presented many trails in which I was driven to practice it and failed miserably. I was already in the midst of lessons of patience! I knew I needed more than patience—I needed the Lord!

Even after walking with Jesus Christ for nearly eleven years, I know I need Him. I need Him as much now as I did then. If anything, I've grown even more aware of my neediness, even in the areas I thought I had it together.

I want to speak softly, have patience, and be present, but I am painfully aware that I am wholly unable to do that without Jesus. Oh, I may be able to do it for a while, forcing myself to be kind, gritting my teeth, but that's not patience. That's not gentleness. Not really. So moment by moment, when I find myself struggling or anxious, when I feel the first twinges of frustration begin to simmer within, I run. I run into His arms, because I don't just want to just change my outward behavior, I need Him to change my heart.

Mama and Jetty

I know these days or seasons aren't just to be survived, but to be enjoyed, and, when I take on the Father's perspective, I can find joy in the sleepless nights, cuddling a child to my chest. In Christ, I can find strength for the day, moment by moment, when my eyebrow twitches and my brain is overwhelmed and I desperately desire a long nap.

He is faithful!


Saturday, January 7, 2017

I won't cry

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been going through last year's journals, reflecting on what Papa God has done in my life this year.

Two-thousand-sixteen was a year of questions.  At one point, I was launching questions at God as fast as I could. I pitched them like fastballs. I was in a place of feeling defeated. I saw how helpless I was to change, comfort, heal, or even help the world around me. I wanted to fix it, and I knew I couldn't. I can't remember exactly what led me to that moment, but I know it had been building up for a while.

In October of 2015, one of my sisters in Christ lost her baby and it ripped me up. It broke me down. Sometimes I flip open my prayer journal and it falls open to those pages where I poured out my heart for God to bring the baby in her womb back to life, and the feelings flood back.

I believed He was able. I was convinced He would.
And He didn't.

Our due dates were only a few days apart, and we were thrilled to be pregnant together, just as we had been with our previous pregnancies. We were trading stories of feeling sick and sluggish, excitedly reporting when we felt kicks, exchanging Trim Healthy Mama recipes that we might be able to stomach. 

One day we sat with a group of friends at Denny's, and she commented, "I haven't felt the baby move much..." She had been through a stillbirth before and was concerned.  We all tried to reassure her everything was okay. Because things like that surely don't happen twice, right?  God wouldn't do that to her again, would He?

But a couple days later, my friend and I sat beside her as our midwife maneuvered a wand over her belly, searching for the heartbeat.  And I knew.  And she knew. And the whole room knew.

I don't cry much, or at least I didn't back in those times, but I did then.  I left the room and sobbed. I called her husband to tell him the news, and then I broke down.  Then I sucked all that feeling in, shoved it deep down, and took all of our children to the park with some other friends while our midwife took her to get an ultrasound to confirm.

I held the pain in while I watched her six children happily play with the rest of the kiddos. Each time I felt it become a lump in my throat, I swallowed hard.  I held it together best I could as my husband and I and our friend sat on our porch with all of our children sitting cross-legged on the grass and shared with them the difficult news. I tried to be strong as I hugged their teary-eyed daughters.

My friend's daughter's footprints

And my strength turned into anger. And my anger turned into heavy questions. And my heavy questions came tumbling out like weights I could no longer hold.

A few days ago the Lord revealed to me that I have struggled with anger my whole life because of one choice I made.

"I will not cry."

And because I refused to cry, refused to allow myself to fully grieve or truly feel anything painful in my life (except on very rare occasions, where I allowed it to leak out for a bit in private, and then quickly composed myself and resumed life), all the hurt and pain gathered together like a cancerous tumor.

Anger was always just under the surface.

While I know I had come a long way in dealing with my anger—I was no longer the explosive time bomb I had been in years past—I also knew I was not healed, and I had long assumed that it would just always be there. I had resigned to struggling through it for the rest of my life.

I had forgotten that in Christ Jesus there is the power of His grace to overcome every sin. There is victory for every battle, and not just partial victory, but total

Last year, I beat upon the chest of God, and I found that God has a heart that beats for me. On New Year's Day my friend Jane sent me a text sharing that the biblical meaning of the number 17 is "overcoming the enemy" and "complete victory". I do believe that the Lord has spoken that great victories will come in 2017, beyond our wildest imagination. 

I wondered what the biblical meaning for 2016 is, so I looked it up. There were several definitions, but the majority pointed to love and loving.  In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul clearly defines love by stating 16 qualities of love (beginning with love is patient and ending with love never fails).  According to, the 16th time love is mentioned in 1 John, it is to state, "There is no fear in love..." [1 John 4:18].

Something about that rings true for me. There were several times over the last year that I saw that God was teaching me about His love. He was redefining my own definition of what it means to be loved, what love is, and how love looks.

Looking back, I can see that His love for me over the last year, especially the way He refocused my own perspective of His Father-heart, paved the way for my surrender. His love was always pouring out, but I was often oblivious to it. We often don't need God to do anything new to show us His love. We just need Him to take the scales off our eyes so we can see His love.

There's an album by Steffany Gretzinger that I recently came across and have cherished. It's titled, "The Undoing."  It doesn't take a genius to see what I find myself listening to it on repeat! 

One of her songs, Out of Hiding, goes like this,

"Come out of hiding, you're safe here with me. There's no need to cover what I already see. You've got your reasons, but I hold your peace. You've been on lock down, and I hold the key.

'Cause I loved you before you knew what was love. And I saw it all, still I chose the cross. And you were the one that I was thinking of when I rose from the grave.

Now rid of the shackles, my victory's yours. I tore the veil so you could come close. There's no need to stand at a distance anymore. You're not far from home."
I remember making a conscious decision last summer, "Lord, you can open up the flood gates. I will cry." I gave Him permission to do it because I didn't even know how to. I had to give myself permission to be messy and snot-faced and emotional. I had to give myself permission to feel.

Here's the girl who, a year ago, wouldn't cry, and now I live on the constant verge of tears, in the most beautiful way. I'm feeling now. My heart is tender now. This huge cancerous tumor of anger has been plucked out, and I've been healed.

I've learned that God can handle my questions. He's a good Father, and He can handle my break downs. He knows how all the gears of Mandy turn or malfunction. He knows it all. I've also learned that He is trustworthy.  We say things about the character of God, even do bible studies on it, but you know, it's a totally different thing when it moves from your head to your heart, when it becomes your belief by experience.  I know He's trustworthy because I know He's faithful.

And I know that I'm not some special example. I'm just an every day normal girl, and what God is doing for me, He can do for each person. He wants to show us where we've made heart decisions that keep us from receiving His love and truly giving His love. He wants there to be no boundary, distance, or blockage between Him and us.

He is faithful.

Friday, January 6, 2017

All In

 For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 
[Jeremiah 29:11-13, Amplified Version]

Last year, I wrote this verse in my journal, and below it I scribbled:

Lord, I hang my hat on this truth. I give myself to trusting You. I believe that You're for me, not against me. I believe that You love me.

I've shared my testimony in bits and pieces, here and there.  I've shared how I feared God.... I feared that if I completely surrendered to Him—like, if I truly let go of everything.... all of it, every area, if I let go, and stopped worrying, and gave it all, every last drop into His hands—that He would destroy it. I feared He would take everything from me. Everything.

I believe we are called to count the cost of following Jesus. In order to go all in, we must know what we are going all in for, and what it means to go all in.

In 2015, there was a moment where I was sitting across the table from my friend Nanci and sharing how I heard the Lord calling me to go all in. She smiled and said, "Hang on a second," as she reached in her purse, her hand reappearing grasping a book with the title All In in big bold letters across the front.

I bought the Kindle version that very minute.

That book, by Mark Batterson, was powerful. In fact, when some friends and I organized a retreat for Instagram ladies, I bought a copy for every woman who came. I knew it was a message we needed to hear.  I knew I wanted to be all in, and I committed to it, but, at the time, I didn't realize that I hadn't really surrendered.

All in is more than something I commit to. It's a surrender. In her book Anything, Jennie Allen writes, "Stepping out wholly dependent on God to come through, stepping away from what is secure and comfortable exposes the holes in our faith. And then if God comes through, it expands our faith. Something about stepping off cliffs where God leads allows God the opportunity to move in greater ways. When we step off and He shows up, we see Him differently than we would if we were standing safely looking over the edge."

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the testimony I posted in my Stories about how I wanted God to show up before I stepped off the edge, but I realized, God's power and might, the grace that I so wanted, it comes with obedience.  He calls us to step out in faith, and then He comes through. I wanted break through. I wanted to see the Spirit do great things. But I wanted Him to do all that first, and then I'd surrender.  And that's just not how it works.

Mark Batterson begins his book saying, "When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? That faithfulness is holding down the fort? That playing it safe is safe? That there is any greater privilege than sacrifice? That radical is anything but normal?"  

He continues, "Jesus didn't die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. Faithfulness is not holding the fort. It's storming the gates of hell. The will of God is not an insurance plan. It's a daring plan. The complete surrender of your life to the cause of Christ isn't radical. It's normal. It's time to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. It's time to go all in and all out for the All in All."

God used Batterson's book as a sort of John the Baptist messenger to prepare the way, so when I sat there, reading God's heart and purpose of love, not of disaster, I thought, "I want that. I'm going to choose that. I'm going to throw away this idea that the Lord is out to destroy me."

There is one who is out to destroy me, and that's not Jesus. It's Satan. Yes, I could lose everything, I could, but it wouldn't be because the Lord's heart toward me is destruction.  Even if I am destroyed, I believe that it still fulfills God's true purpose of love, prosperity, and well-being which extends beyond the here and now of this fleeting life. There is risk, no doubt.  But I see there's an even bigger risk in living in this self-protective, fearful, so-called "safe" zone.

In that moment, I chose to throw myself upon the truth of Jeremiah 29:11.  The verses that followed began to unfold in my own life. 

Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Deep longing. Vital necessity. That captures the position of my heart!  I literally cannot even function without Him. I can't go on a walk with my neighbor without Him with me, speaking to me. I can't go sit in a women's fellowship if I'm not totally positive that He wants me there. I don't want to get out of bed if I haven't fixed my mind on Him. I don't want to speak or even breathe without His approval.

It sounds crazy, sometimes I feel crazy, but it's where I have to live. I laughed the other day as I was walking to my car, because I realize I look like a freak mumbling to myself, even in public, but I find that I must, I have to, talk to the Lord, and sometimes I must do it out loud! It just seems more powerful!

I feel compelled to share my story, as it unfolds. In the beginning, I treasured in my heart the things the Lord was telling me. I knew I needed to be quiet and listen, even though my heart is always to share and be an open book (maybe a little too much of an open book).  The Lord actually told me to be like Mary, the mother of Christ, who often quietly treasured things in her heart.  I knew He was speaking, and I needed to, like Martha's sister Mary, be still and sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him.

Any time I tried to explain what the Lord was doing in me to a friend, I fumbled with words and felt like I was a rambling, confusing mess. Words failed, and often, it caused confusion in my friendships. How could I explain the miracle the Lord was doing in my heart? I couldn't.  The Lord clearly spoke to quietly treasure what He was doing and speaking and showing me, and also to trust that, at the right time, fruit would be produced and revealed in my own life, which would do the explaining that I could not.

I'm not really good at being quiet, so, um, you can see how this was definitely a struggle for me!

My husband and I both came to this realization that we weren't all in. Scripture says that some things are permissible but not profitable.  We realized we didn't want to live on the permissible line—we wanted to live profitable! God spoke to my husband so clearly that our purpose is to bring Him glory, and that should be the filter through which we run all of our life, from what music we listen to, shows we watch, hobbies we take up, events we attend... from the way we speak to our spouse to the way we discipline our children to the way we manage our money. Over and over again, the Lord shows me that the heart matters. We may be able to fool everyone else. We may even deceive ourselves. But God? He sees the heart clearly. The motivation of the heart is super important to Him. I can say that I want to be all in. I can think that I want to be all in. I can speak of surrender and desire it. But if I desire anything more than Him, then I'm off.

When I was a teenager, I thought living for the glory of God was a boring route to take, but I have found that it's a crazy adventure, and I'm pretty sure we've only just begun.

Monday, January 2, 2017


We set the Christmas tree up earlier than we ever have, and still, January 2, 2017, it still stands. While I have taken down much of the seasonal decor, I can't bring myself to take down the tree just yet.

This Christmas was such a time of reflection, worship, and celebration of the Lord Jesus.  As I shared on Instagram earlier in the season, I love all the symbolism of Christmas time.  I feel like all of it, separately and together, has spoken to me so intensely.

Christ is the Tree of Life. He is our Evergreen.  We are the branches.  He is the Light. We are also lights displayed to all the world. Those who abide in Him will bear fruit, ornaments of His grace. He lavishes us with gifts, good and beautiful things we could not even imagine. He makes us clean and white, whiter than snow (if we actually got snow here in Houston). He comes as a small, needy baby, such a perfect representation of who we are—small and needy—even if we don't realize it (and, we often don't realize just how small and desperately needy we are).

We have not always celebrated Christmas. We had lots of opinions about it several years ago, but now.... there's so much beauty and revelation of Christ here, my heart could explode.  Christ, in whom and by whom all things were created.  Christ, of whom all creation points to.  This is His universe, and of course the enemy is always at work to try to claim Christ's work as his own.

I have imagined how, a little over two-thousand years ago, a young Mary learned that she would conceive a child, God in flesh.  It would have been around this time of year that she would have been filled by the Spirit, Jesus being knit in her womb.  That never ceases to amaze me!

I bet she was full of amazement at the power of God, amazed that He would use her. So here I am also full of awe and wonder, unable to take down the tree. I sit here typing in the dark with those twinkling lights shimmering, reflections caught on every glassy surface, sharing light and warmth.

The light, it's what draws me.  My heart is quickened within me.  He is with me, His light is in me. He is my lamp and light, illuminating the darkness. 

I am so aware of that right now.

I said yes to His light, and His light overwhelmed my darkness, and I saw just how dark I was, and how I thought I had light, but did not. His light came and exposed me. Healed me. Transformed me.

I have probably cried nearly every day.

If you know me, you know this alone is a miracle. Let's just say, crying is not my favorite.  But my heart is so incredibly raw, my soul so tender. I feel like a broken alabaster box. I'll never be the same. And my husband?  He's so broken. So beautifully shattered for Christ. 

Brandon with his handmade gift from our 11 year old son, Nolyn.

We have often, in these last months, collapsed together, arms wrapped tightly around one another, Brandon's tears anointing us as we pray. He's so soft. So tender. So amazing. I see Christ pouring out of him. I see his light shining.  I see him, this manly man— burly and bearded— totally and completely given over to Christ.  He overflows with humility and compassion, meekness and gentleness, and yet a strength and boldness like I have never seen.

While we have had a beautiful and peaceful marriage for nearly 11 years now (since the Lord Jesus transformed us as individuals and our marriage as well), I have been longing for even greater depth.  Once again, I have been a witness to the Lord's powerful grace in us as He has taken us to an even deeper level of intimacy.

Since then, not a day goes by when my husband doesn't pray over us, and rarely a day passes when I don't seek him out to pray for me when I am struggling to be soft or free in my heart.  Even seeing my husband's passion for the Scriptures has been a great encouragement to me, as many evenings we have spent sharing passages of Scriptures and witnessing the Lord renewing and cleansing us by the power of His Word.

He's not who he was. Neither of us are. The whole atmosphere of our home as changed.

Which brings me back to Christmas, when the whole atmosphere of the world changed because a little King came into the world by the humblest of means. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.

And that light, that light has overcome me. Has completely wrecked me. I feel like pieces of me have been cut off, and it has been so very painful, but so very good.  He has messed me up. And it has been for my benefit, and hopefully the benefit of His Kingdom.

So I'm leaving the tree up for now —this symbol of The Everlasting Evergreen pouring light into the darkness. And I'm asking Him to keep illuminating the darkness, to lead me, to reveal, to keep me in the raw and broken and exposed place.  He is faithful.